Tying in neatly with the newly announced C5 Malvern 595, our new issue of Loupe (out now) is geared heavily towards the 595’s release. Here’s a sneak peak of what you can expect:
The C5 Malvern 595 may be a slim watch, but it challenged the Christopher Ward team in a big way. We got a couple of the key players, Adrian Buchmann and Frank Stelzer, to chat about what went right, and what went wrong…
Adrian: Let’s start at the beginning. When Mike and the co-founders set us the challenge of making a mechanical watch that came in at under 6mm thick, you could have heard a pin drop. That would put us amongst the very slimmest on the market – you can count the watches that are slimmer on one hand, probably, and they’re often made in a totally different way.
Frank: They are indeed. The case is effectively part of the movement – and that’s certainly how it works if you want to get down to 3mm or 4mm. With the C5 Malvern 595 we’ve been more conventional – separate movement, separate case, all that – but we eventually managed to come in at 5.95mm regardless. You wouldn’t believe how much harder that was to achieve than a watch that’s 8mm thick, say. Two little millimetres don’t sound like much, but in watchmaking it’s kilometres.
Adrian, did you look at the available movements first? For instance, could we do an automatic? No, it turned out. Ultra-thin automatics do exist, but they’re very rare and use micro-rotors.
Senior designer Adrian Buchmann
Adrian: They’re very expensive too. I’m told that something like the ultra slim movement used by Parmigiani – which manages to be almost identically high, and includes an automatic complication – would have cost up to £3,000 just for the movement. That obviously wouldn’t work in a watch we intended to sell at £595.
Frank: The problem is, any sort of complication on a slim watch is difficult to achieve, as the clearances are so tight. So for us, the ETA-7001 seemed ideal. It’s very reliable and well proven and, of course, it’s slim. That said, one of the biggest challenges for me was persuading some of the watchmakers that we should a) use this movement, and b) do an ultra-slim watch at all. It’s a more difficult job for them, after all, and nobody likes a more difficult job if they can avoid it!
This all said, one thing that’s perhaps surprising about ultra thin watches is that you think they might feel a bit delicate – even breakable – but it’s just not the case. Even a 3mm Parmigiani feels quite solid when you hold it – after all, it is made of steel! There’s no way you could bend it in half, just like you can’t bend a one pound coin. It’s not made of aluminium!
Adrian: So, what pleases you most about the end result?
Frank: One thing is our quality control; the other thing is how great our supply chain has been. In fact, they all rose to the occasion brilliantly here, creating the highly specialist components needed exactly to our specifications. We put real pressure on them, but we were so delighted with what they achieved. Second tier watch part manufacturers simply couldn’t have managed this.
Technical Manager Frank Stelzer
Adrian: For my part, it’s that we quickly got to the essential truth of the watch. Because the 595’s most important quality is that it’s very slim, it meant I couldn’t distract from that – which, mostly, meant removing clutter. So the dial is very simple, with no raised elements or extraneous detail, and we needed exceptionally pure, clean hands.
I love the use of black rather than blued hands, for instance, and they look particularly sophisticated with the grey dial. Black dials can be rather aggressive, and this is not an aggressive watch, so I pushed for this colour instead. It keeps the palate muted, but softens things a bit.
Frank: Personally, I love the grey dial. And I love having working on this watch – not so much the process, maybe, but the feeling we got afterwards. Not every new watch will be the challenge this one was, but whenever we come across a particularly sticky problem in the future, we’ll now be able to look back and say, hey, we can do it.
After all, we survived the Malvern 595!
This is an extract from ‘Slim Pickings’, found in Loupe Issue 8. You can read the full article online now or alternatively request your physical copy here.